Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Not written for a while so apologies to my 372,000 followers.  We've been busy making serious inroads into Powys and various other regions recently.  I'm happy to report that our cider is now available in the Coach and Horses pub in Llangynidr and the Bridge Cafe in Brecon with more new venues to follow.  We are now seriously up and running with our Bag in Box cider and our Mini Kegs.   Recent takers include the Bunch of Grapes Pontypridd and the Bridge at Michaelchurch.  It's been great to see that all our hard work on the 'straight from the vat' cider is paying off with some good feedback so far.  We paid special attention to the filtering process this year and have achieved a lovely golden colour with only mild cloudiness and definitely no bits!
Apparently the Gulf Stream is finally moving North to where it should be so hopefully we will get some serious cider weather in the next couple of months.
I just completed my first 100 mile cycle ride as part of the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling's 'Tour of the Brecon Beacons' sportive.  It was pretty tough I can tell you, especially for a non club affiliated casual cyclist like yours truly.  But the main thing I'm proud of is that despite three of the most serious mountain climbs to be found in the whole of South Wales, I actually managed to stay in the saddle the whole way up all of 'em!  Great if not taxing day out, and good preparation for my John O'Groats to Land's End cycle ride in September...

see you at the cider bar


Friday, 29 June 2012

The rain is helping the chances of there being a decent apple crop this year.  This is good, though we need sunshine too for obvious reasons.  We've received some proofs of some Ty Gwyn Cider beer mats so this is another exciting landmark for us.  Some branded pint glasses should be on the way too, though after a great meeting with our friend Nick Phillips landlord of the Bridge in Kentchurch, we've learned that they must be nucleated.  This doesn't mean they are approved for use in the canteen at Sellafield, merely that they have some etching on the bottom inside of the glass which encourages the bubbles in the cider.

In other news I cycled 64 miles last weekend in a sportive held at Eastnor Castle.  I can report that the climb from the plain below Malvern to the very top of the Malvern Hills is a fairly brutal one.  I needed a large amount of cider to recover from that one I can tell you...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Hi Cider Fans!

Sorry it's been so long, there's no real excuse for not writing except to say that thankfully we've been pretty busy on the cider front with orders pouring in from all four corners of the country.  The Jubilee weekend was a huge success with particularly honourable mentions going to Stedman Brothers Events in Newport who took massive amounts of our cider to the Hay Festival and also to the Ty Coch Inn on the beach at Porthdinllaen in Gwynedd who have been selling so much of our cider that they need individual pallets delivered straight to their cellar door.  A final big shout goes to the Orchard Press Cider Company who have been ordering similarly large amounts to sell to cider-starved Londoners via their excellent stall at Greenwich Market.  We've had a serious enquiry about exporting our cider to the States which I know will be very difficult but if there are potential Ty Gwyn fans there then we'd love to try getting some to them.

We've finished racking off, the secondary malo-lactic fermentation having taken place (speak to my brother Ben about this), and the cider is all ready to go off to our bottling plant in the Forest.  We've held back plenty of vat cider to fill our Bag in Boxes and Mini Kegs which will hopefully sell like hot cakes.  We've got a large number of pubs interested in the Bag in Box cider so we've had some pump clips delivered.  Can't wait to see Ty Gwyn Cider proudly on the bar on a handpump next to the brewing giants of this world...

We had a visit from renowned drinks journalist Pete Brown who seems to like our cider very much and we are looking forward to his book on UK Cider with great anticipation.  We're all signed up for the Abergavenny Food Festival for the fourth year running and we are also going to have a stall at the Monmouthshire Show on the 30th August.  Please check our website for details of more festivals and events over the Summer. 

See you at the bar!


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Welsh cider guide

Recently we were joined by Pete and Bill who are putting together a guide to Welsh cider complete with a high standard of photography, handled by Bill.  Pete is the reason we were recently mentioned in a Guardian piece entitled 'A Brief Guide to UK Cider', which we were very happy about.  Pete and Bill have to spend the whole Summer going around Wales visiting all the cider makers and tasting their ciders.     I can't wait to see the results it should be a great book.  In other news, our 'straight from the vat' cider is probably a week or two away from being decanted into barrels for consumption, quite often during the plethora of small cider festivals that take place over the Summer at many local pubs.  The Star Inn in Llansoy, which is the CAMRA Welsh country inn of the year 2012/13, rang up to order some of our cider, as did the Tavern Inn near Leominster.  Other pubs to take our cider recently are the Bridge at Kentchurch, a lovely pub run by Nick Phillips in a fantastic riverside setting.  We're also in another Bridge, this one at Michaelchurch, run by Glyn and Gisela.  Another gorgeous setting, miles off the beaten track in the Golden Valley region.
Oh, and our mini kegs have arrived.  We purchased these from our friend Ed who runs the Kingstone Brewery in Tintern, makers of extremely fine ales.  We're very excited as they look fantastic, as well as holding about ten pints of cider.  We think they'll be a hit!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

It's all go here!  Just been on the phone to Tyrell's crisps near Hereford about getting some of their produce for the cider shop.  I've got to send them some samples just in case one day there's any possibility of doing Ty Gwyn Cider flavour Tyrell's crisps!  It's marketing gold...
We're selling some delicious local ice cream made by a great local company Kelsmor Dairy and we're also selling Kingstone Brewery's delicious beer made in Tintern.  So at the moment the story is of local businesses all helping each other which is great.
We made 'The Hotel Inspectors' Alex Polizzi's 'Little Black Book' in the context of a review of the Bell which was excellent news. 
I've been to Aldbourne in Wiltshire on a sales trip and got our cider into the Crown by the duckpond there.  Aldbourne is a picture postcard Wiltshire village that was home to the US 82nd Airborne division in the run up to D-Day.  We also sell our cider in the village Post Office and deli run by a charming lady called Sue.  Aldbourne is well worth a visit.  We're also just about to deliver some cider up to the Medcalf Bar in Exmouth Market, London which is great news.  My brother Ben and his wife Stephanie returned form a trip to Abersoch in North Wales having sold a huge amount to the great local pubs and restaurants there.  More details to follow.  Our website has been refreshed and is open for business at info@tygwyncider.co.uk
See you at the cider bar...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Weather patchy, cider not!

We've taken the covers off some of the cider and are debating whether to take the remaining covers off would be to invite a serious frost.  We'll see.  It's pretty gorgeous today and the shop is looking great.  I've put bottles on shelves, bottles in crates, bottles on tables and press cuttings on walls.  Mum's going to make some blackcurrant coulis which we are thinking of branding Ty Gwyn Blackcurrant Coulis, inventively enough.  We should get some local honey and wool in any minute too.  Ben tasted the cider the other day, as it's been bubbling away for about five months now and said it tasted delicious.  But he sealed it back up before I could get my hands on any of it. 

I'm thinking of riding a section of the Monmouth and Brecon canal on my bike at some stage this weekend, if the weather holds and we are not too busy over the weekend.  Which of course we could well be! 

In other news, we've apparently got a great mention in one of Alex Polizzi's guides which is fantastic.  Always lovely to get a really positive mention from people who's business it is to get nice stuff into their own hotels and restaurants.  I've written her a letter to see if she'd like to take our cider into any of her hotels so we'll see. 

Ben's off to Abersoch this weekend and seeing as the place seems to be chock full of decent pubs and restaurants we've packed him off with lots of samples.  Fingers crossed Abersoch will soon be another flag on the Ty Gwyn campaign map...

see you at the bar...


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Re-launch of our cider shop and other exciting developments

It seems as though we've spent most of our time either down at Pontrilas sawmill or covered in paint as we re-vamp our wonderful cider shop.  We've been busy making signs so our punters don't get too confused as they leave the beaten track for our little cider set up deep in the beautiful Monnow Valley.  For anyone travelling on the Hereford to Abergavenny road, an amazing breakfast doorstep sandwich can be yours for only £3 complete with black pudding, fried eggs, bacon and sausage plus real Heinz ketchup.  Of course my excuse for consuming such a mid morning snack is that I ran the Forest of Dean Half Marathon and then undertook a thirty mile round trip cycle ride to the Forest of Dean the very next day.

The long and the short of it is that our cider shop is up and running after a facelift, but looking more inviting and organised without losing any of its rustic charm.  We've built a nice wall, painted it sparkling white and put up some new shelves on which to display our range of cidertastic products: poly barrels, mini kegs, bottled cider, you name it, we're displaying it proudly and selling it!  Honey to follow shortly, maybe even some bric a brac we found in the potting shed.

We're gearing up for another great Summer of cider, why not come and see us for a sample of what we do...



Monday, 26 March 2012

Cider selling well in London and Cheshire

The sun is bringing the cider drinkers out.  The dial in the car read 18.5 degrees today.  We're about to start painting the new wall in the cider shop but need to paint it with sealant first.  Once we've done that we can paint the wall and the floor as part of a total makeover.  We're going to sell some local honey too.  And we found some amazing aluminium re-usable kegs that we reckon the punters are going to love.  The Ty Gwyn Naughty Horsey Mini-keg!

We shipped a half pallet up to London to a company called the Orchard Press Cider Company.  They are a small but highly enthusiastic outfit whose mission is to bring a range of quality craft ciders to London drinkers.  We wish them all the very best and hope to be re-supplying them soon.  Another of our customers who seem to have had a busy time of it cider-wise is the Bull's Head in Mobberley, Cheshire.  They'd only just ordered six cases from us but rang up today to take eight more.  Exciting stuff!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Better weather and planning the JOGLE

Some great weather brought out a number of customers last weekend, the temperature seems to have dropped a bit now though.  Some good orders coming in from the Cheshire area and thirty cases are to be dispatched to London tomorrow, to the Orchard Press Cider Company who operate from a base in Greenwich and attend various specialist markets selling quality cider so we're excited about that.

I'm planning my JOGLE, which to the uninitiated is the John O'Groats to Land's End cycle ride.  What an excuse to pore over maps of the country to my heart's content and to have meetings with the two mates I've persuaded to join me over a bottle of cider or two.  And of course I'll be doing it for a very good cause, more details to follow regarding that.

Tomorrow we're going to commence giving our cider shop a bit of a makeover and a lick of paint.  Folks seem to enjoy the rustic appearance of it so I hope we manage to keep it characterful.

Keep on cidering,


Friday, 2 March 2012

New Customers

Sorry it's been a while, I know many of you are hanging on my every word.  Well, things are shaping up nicely with regard to new customers joining The Ty Gwyn family recently.  Thanks largely to the efforts of my sister in law Steph, we are doing a brisk trade in Cheshire. The Folk Bar in Disbury and the Lime Tree restaurant have recently come on board.  We also sold some cider to the Celtic Vision shop in Narberth and they're going to be attending some festivals in Pembrokeshire and the surrounding area. The lovely Sugar Loaf Vineyard just outside Abergavenny and in the shadow of the legendary mountain have also taken a couple of cases from us.  Finally the Welsh Cider and Perry Association are off up to London to do a St David's Day festival on the South Bank at which they will be selling our cider and we also had a very positive enquiry from the Medcalf Bar and Restaurant in Exmouth Market so things are really moving along quite nicely indeed.  We've also been in discussion with regard to securing our Bag in Box equipment which is pretty exciting.  I've signed up for the Forest of Dean Half Marathon but no I won't be running it in a cider apple costume.  I've also pretty much committed to doing the John O'Groats to Land's End cycle ride so when I'm not selling cider I should be keeping pretty busy this Summer! 

More to follow, as ever...

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bit cold but all is well

The cider heaters are burning up money quicker than we can make it but that's what it takes to bring the people their lovely golden Ty Gwyn Cider!  It's getting a bit nippy here in the Monnow Valley, around minus two or something at the moment.  Still that didn't stop me nipping out to Porthcawl with the dogs for a bit of a surf, as the charts suddenly came alive for a forty-eight hour period.  I know we're in Wales where people are hardy but it never ceases to amaze me just how many folks are prepared to drop work and head to a beach on the Severn Estuary, to don neoprene in a freezing windblown car park before hurling themselves into a sea with a temperature around the five degrees celsius mark.  Tuesday afternoon must have seen around fifty men and women bobbing around in the line up, including me!  Needless to say, our two dogs Worzel and Pippin absolutely adore it there, splashing around in the waves and making new friends.  I feel very blessed to be within an hour of the Welsh coast and am always happy to dispense what advice I can to those of our cider customers who are also of the surf fraternity...

Monday, 30 January 2012

Snow is falling, cider is bubbling

Snow is falling but not settling.  The fitness regime continues.  My apple mac seems to be sweeping up new work emails after one more call to the server people.  All is moderately well.  Nice weekend watching some amazing tennis, and on Sunday instead of quaffing a couple of bottles of our cider and falling asleep on the couch in front of the football I actually managed to go for a massive walk around the farm.  We've had a late January mini spike in sales as folks come out of winter hibernation and take advantage of a few special offers in local restaurants and hotels etc.  Nice to see.  I'm off to Morocco in a couple of weeks time to do some more cider networking amongst the surf fraternity.  Surf Berbere is an amazing and cheap guesthouse filled with interesting characters with a Berber tent on the top storey where traditional Tagines are cooked up nightly.  On my last visit I was room sharing with some very impressive Durham graduates who managed to set aside an impressive amount of hours each day to working on a forthcoming project.  I was so inspired I swore there and then to take a laptop on all future trips in order to get some positive Ty Gwyn work done.  Now I'm just waiting for the Amazon man to turn up with Windows for Mac software, a retro neoprene cover and the new Lana Del Ray album...

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

From the cider office to the mountain bike trail

Having spent two hours on the phone with our very switched on new accountant being given step by step instruction on Sage, a business accounting programme some of you may be familiar with, I was ready for the day to get a little more exciting.  We sold four bottles to three men who weren't quite sure what they would find when they turned off the main road, and I sold a mixed case to the woman from HSBC who is setting up our business account.  I was just getting stuck into some database updating when there outside the office window was our friend Ben who lives up the road and is a mad keen mountain biker.  He asked me if I'd like to join him on the basis that he thought I'd be much more productive after a spirited ride up to the woods above the farm.  In minutes I was in a motley assortment of cycling gear and a luminous football top with a light attached to my helmet like some sort of post-rave miner.  As we cycled off around the farm I smiled at the beauty of being able to do something like this after so long cooped up in London.  Tomorrow I need to prepare a mailout for all our potential new customers but once I've done  that I might go for a run...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

cider marketing causes me to miss great surf but Dave Sharp visits

Well when I left London after approximately twenty years of working as a musician, in retail and in media I can't say I ever expected life in the country to be quite like this.  We are lucky enough to have a very characterful pub near us called the Angel, and thanks to the efforts of a man called Rob, it has some very good music nights.  Playing a while back was one Dave Sharp, formerly of 80s passionate rockers The Alarm, who myself and my brother followed enthusiastically in our youth.  When Dave said he could use a place to crash we were only to happy to suggest that he came back to the cider farm for a few jars of our brew and a jam session.  I'm delighted to say that he returned last weekend for a second time and much merriment was had by all.  Needless to say, apart from the odd question, we don't bother him about 'the old days' so much as we talk about Hank Williams (I happen to have a house brick from his old dwelling in Nashville, Hank's not Dave's), Bruce Springsteen and the price of cider apples amongst many other topics that usually keep us occupied well into the early hours.

In the cold sober light of this week I find myself back on the phone to Microsoft to get help with setting up printer label templates for all the customers I have recently entered into our first Outlook database.  To the total credit of Deepthi, a kind and extremely patient woman on the other end of the phone by tea time today I have two wonderful lists of stickers all ready to go on envelopes bringing news of all our wonderful cidery plans for 2012 and beyond.

Sadly this meant that I took my eyes off of Magic Seaweed.com long enough to miss the fact that it was three foot and clean at Rest Bay but "c'est la vie"

Ciao for now cider folks.  About all three of you!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Trials of Technology

Well today has been interesting.  I'm not much good with technology but I know when I really want something to work.  I won't bore you with it but I've finally managed to get Outlook Express to link up with our existing mail server in order to send out better emails, newsletters, collate mailing lists etc.  All in the interests of bringing our cider to the widest and most appreciative audience demographic imaginable.  All to a soundtrack of BBC6 music which I discovered how to get when I dusted down my old Hewlett Packard sub woofer and speakers from a cardboard box somewhere.  So I now know who  Growler are and how the new Arctic Monkeys song goes.  When the working day was over I retired to what we call 'the barn', a converted space on the farm with rush matting floor, woodburner and stereo, to do some exercise including pop ups ready for my surf trips this year.  Tomorrow I need to research 'Bag in Box' packaging and the creation of a new flyer...

Monday, 9 January 2012

Wonderland etc

In the midst of doing all my Ty Gwyn sales figures for the last few years I have as mentioned been listening to 6 music on the radio.  It dawned on me that I am actually looking forward to the Lana Del Ray album despite not having followed the nonsense about her previous 'career launches'.  Last night I watched 'Wonderland' with great performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Kirsten Stewart and my new favourite actress, Kristen Wiig of Bridesmaids.  I digress.  I need to get new flyers made for Ty Gwyn and I need to improve all our marketing mail outs and mail outs to trade customers so if anyone knows anything about Outlook, get in touch!

Friday, 6 January 2012

6 Music and Monmouth Rugby Club

so, the melancholy task of dragging the bare Christmas tree to the bonfire completed I turned my attention to ensuring that Ty Gwyn hits the ground in 2012 running.  So I went for a run.  And drank elderflower cordial every night this week.  Probably not the behaviour of your average cider maker, but then I'm probably not... 
Our first proper PC with Excel, Word and Outlook and a scanner and a watnot and wireless to boot has been set up in what used to be called a boot room.  My first task was going through all our handwritten sales record books (wot we keep in the cider shop) and transferring everything to spreadsheets.  This task was made considerably easier by virtue of the fact that I discovered that the computer could access 6 music.  Heaven!  I must fall so squarely into the demographic as to be ridiculous, suffice to say that playing things like early Echo and the Bunnymen and The Jesus and Mary Chain makes me positively look forward to my daily computer based tasks.
Tomorrow should be interesting.  We have been invited to sponsors day at Monmouth Rugby Club on account of the fact that we are proud sponsors and they have our logos on their shirts, a first for us.  We're going to get snapped for the Monmouthshire Beacon, watch a game and then go for a pint at the clubhouse.  Should be fun! 
I've also logged all the festivals we're going to do this year in the diary and sent out a few emails to register interest.  Suffice to say we'll be back at the Abergavenny Food Festival and hopefully the Usk and Monmouth shows and the Welsh Cider and Beer festival in Cardiff.  And plenty more.  Watch this space...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year, Cider still bubbling

Well we had a good end to the year.  We got press in the Guardian courtesy of top chef Angela Hartnett who used Ty Gwyn Cider (and a photo of a half empty bottle) in her recipe 'mussels in cider sauce'.  Our friend TV presenter Kate Humble made great mentions of us in her column in the Telegraph and we also had mentions in the Sunday Times travel section.  I think Oz Clarke may have mentioned us again too.  So that's all good stuff.  The cider is bubbling away and as things go just a little quiet at this time of year on the sales front, it's a great time to get really organised.  Hence it's time to brush up those Excel skills, make a few spreadsheets and file away every single trade sales invoice of 2011.  Slightly more exciting things that will be done shortly are a new website, new flyers, new packaging and some more ideas about how to keep the Ty Gwyn brand going from strength to strength.  Rest Bay is blown out so no surf trips for now though I will naturally be keeping one eye on my latest discovery, Killers in Morocco.  It may also be time to look at purchasing a new wetsuit as I slipped on the rocks recently and the neoprene on the shoulder is suddenly looking a bit threadbare...

More cider and surf related news to follow.  Have a great 2012!